Portraits of Wildflowers

Perspectives on Nature Photography

Posts Tagged ‘tree

Not red this time

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Every now and then I’ve shown you a photograph of the many little red fruits that adorn yaupon trees (Ilex vomitoria) at the end of the year and into the new year. You’ve also occasionally seen some of the gluttons, both avian and mammalian, that feast on those fruits (the last two links take you to cute little animal pictures; check them out).

On April 15th in Great Hills Park I found a couple of yaupons in full bloom—something I hadn’t previously seen (at least not consciously). The top picture provides a close look at a sprig of buds and blooms. In contrast, the bottom photograph pulls way back to give you an overview, a gestalt. In neither picture do you see the many insects that the flowers attracted.

 

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“Our task is that of making ourselves individuals. The conscience of a race is the gift of its individuals.”
— Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man, 1952.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 19, 2022 at 4:29 AM

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Bark beetle galleries

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In Great Hills Park on April 3rd a fallen tree trunk revealed bark beetle galleries.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

April 14, 2022 at 4:20 AM

Contortions

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Contorted is how I might describe the branch of a possumhaw tree (Ilex decidua) already leafing out at East Metropolitan Park on March 25th. Five days earlier, as spring officially began, I’d photographed a prickly pear pad in my part of Austin that had reached the end of its life. In addition to the usual drying out and loss of green that a dead pad undergoes, it had contorted itself in a way that made me have to do its portrait.

 

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And speaking of contortion, I recommend Reason for its anti-contorted stance, which is to say its adherence to reason. The magazine of “free minds and free markets” promotes free speech, due process, and the deciding of matters based on evidence and logic. If you check out the Reason website, you’ll notice that it finds things to criticize in camps on both sides of the conventional left~right political divide. You could call that outlook libertarian.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 31, 2022 at 4:29 AM

Two notable encounters

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As many years as I’ve lived in Austin (almost 46), and as many years as I’ve been seriously taking nature photographs (about half of 46), I still keep finding new places to ply my trade here, even as properties where I’ve worked have kept succumbing to development, including a few more already this year. On March 12th we trod the Twin Creeks Historic Park Trail in Cedar Park for the first time. About half a mile in, on the grounds of the mid-19th-century John M. King Log House, a man approximately my age came up to me and asked if I’d found an iPhone. He had one in his hand, but it turned out to be his wife’s, from which he was intermittently calling his lost phone to see if he could hear it ringing. Unfortunately he couldn’t.

About 10 minutes later Eve came across an iPhone in a case on a park bench, and of course that had to be the phone the man was looking for. The case included his driver’s license (and credit cards!), so I figured I’d be able to track him down, if necessary by driving to the address on his license. That proved unnecessary because it turned out that the man—surprisingly and again not prudently—kept his phone unlocked. As a result I was able to go into the phone, look at the log of recent calls, and call his wife’s phone. Talk about making someone’s day. We hung around while the man walked all the way back from the parking area, which he had just reached when I called. He said that after three round trips between the parking lot and the old log house, he wouldn’t need to do his stationary bicycle that evening.

Near the log house and then further along the easy-to-walk trail, I stopped every now and then to photograph several prominent sycamore trees with white limbs, one of which appears below. Most interesting, though, was the sycamore shown in the top picture, which had apparently fallen across a creek and then managed to stay alive for years, as evidenced by the large vertical branches rising from the horizontal trunk. Strange, don’t you think?

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 22, 2022 at 4:30 AM

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∏ Day for 2022

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Because the value of π when rounded to two decimal places is 3.14, mathematically minded folks have taken to calling March 14th π Day. Now, π happens to get pronounced in English the same as pie, and in Texas a favorite one of those is pecan pie. That happily provides a reason for this post—which went out at 3:14 in the morning—to show you two venerable pecan trees (Carya illinoinensis). The one above is from Richard Moya Park on February 11th. The one below is from the Copperfield Nature Trail along Walnut Creek on February 19th. In neither case would the gnarly, scaly bark that’s photographically delicious make for a good pie, though you could write a pie-in-the-sky story in which it did. You might even take your inspiration from a fantasy like “The Pied Piper.”

In closing, let me go off on a bit of a tangent by saying I can’t not point out how pi-ous math teachers are [and notice in good algebraic fashion how a double negative makes a positive out of can’t not].

 

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On March 2nd I linked to a 39-minute video interview with Garry Kasparov, perhaps the greatest chess player in our lifetime. Having grown up in the Soviet Union, he is also a staunch advocate for freedom and democracy, and currently chairman of the Human Rights Foundation. This time I want to tell you about another great Russian chess player and advocate for freedom, Natan Sharansky, who coincidentally was born in the Donetsk region in eastern Ukraine that Putin used as a pretext to invade the country. In the 1970s and ’80s Sharansky was among the best known of the so-called refuseniks who worked toward and eventually succeeded in getting many Jews out of the Soviet Union.

Now, in a March 7th Tablet article “Ten Questions for Natan Sharansky,” he offers many insights into the current crisis in Ukraine. For example:

So whether it is Poland, or whether it is Kamchatka, [Putin] sees these all like a czar—all Russian lands—and he sees bringing them back as his historical charge. For this he has worked already for many years. Belarus is practically part of Russia now. He tried Georgia in 2008, and he got Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which are now in fact Russia. Chechnya too, of course, though with a lot of blood, but now it’s his. And he is active all the time in Kazakhstan and the other Stans.

But of course the key here was always Ukraine. Even in our dissidents’ prisons, when we all saw that the Soviet Union would be falling apart, because it was too weak from inside, the critical piece we saw then was Ukraine. In our dreams Ukraine was becoming an independent country, like France or something, not only because of the large population but because it had the wheat and coal and metallurgy and missiles and everything.

It didn’t happen exactly so. Because of corruption and other things, Ukraine went through a difficult period. But nevertheless, a democratic Ukraine was born. So that was a big shock to Putin, and that’s why he has to declare openly that Ukraine is not a state and Ukraine is not a nation, and calls them neo-Nazis, and talks about bringing back its “historical status.”

And consider this assessment:

Russia is not the strongest country and Putin is not the strongest leader in the world. In fact, Russia today is something like 3% of the world economy and NATO represents something closer to 50%. And here it is very important to understand Putin’s psychology. From my time among criminals in prison, I know very well that the one who’s the ringleader in the cell is not the one who is physically strongest, but the one who is ready to use his knife. Everybody has a knife, but not everybody is prepared to use it. Putin believes that he is willing to use his knife and the West isn’t, that the West can only talk, even if it is physically stronger.

You can read the Tablet article to learn much more.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 14, 2022 at 3:14 AM

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Not the Winged Victory of Samothrace

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This is not the Winged Victory of Samothrace. It’s a dried-out piece of Ashe juniper “bone” from northwest Austin on March 5th. The corrugations are typical of Juniperus ashei, as you’ve seen on other occasions here.

 

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The March 9 Quillette article “The New Great Game,” by Joel Kotkin and Hügo Krüger, offers a sober look at how the follies of governments in Europe and the United States have contributed to the current world crisis, which is going to get worse. The article includes many links to supporting sources.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 10, 2022 at 4:39 AM

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Still more from Colorado Bend State Park

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Colorado Bend State Park really does border a bend of the Colorado River in central Texas. Above, from our February 9th visit, you see a dense tangle of vines, including mustang grape (Vitis mustangensis), on the river bank. Within sight of the river we found an ancient black willow tree (Salix nigra) with the twistiest bark I’ve ever seen on one.

 

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One of the most astounding conclusions of some postmodernists is that all of reality is socially constructed. They have even taken issue with the conclusions of Newton and Einstein, on the basis that the privilege of those scientists is obvious in their equations and, as old white guys, their biases inherently prevented them from knowing anything real of the world. People of particular phenotypes, this ironically biologically deterministic and regressive worldview argues, can’t possibly have access to truth.

How do you come to be this confused, to believe that all reality is socially constructed? Have little experience in the real world. No carpenter or electrician could believe that all of reality is socially constructed. No forklift operator or sailor could. Nor, we would’ve thought, could any athlete. There are physical ramifications of physical actions, and everyone operating in the physical world knows this.

If you have not thrown or caught many balls, or used hand tools, or laid tile, or driven stick shift—in short, if you have a little or no experience with the effects of your actions in the physical world, and therefore have not had occasion to see the reactions they produce, then you will be more prone to believing in a wholly subjective universe, in which every opinion is equally valid.

Every opinion is not equally valid, and some outcomes don’t change just because you want them to. Social outcomes may change if you argue or throw a fit. Physical outcomes will not.

 

That’s another passage from Heather Heying and Bret Weinstein’s A Hunter-Gatherer’s Guide to the 21st Century: Evolution and the Challenges of Modern Life. You can also watch many presentations by them on their Dark Horse podcasts.

 

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

  

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

March 1, 2022 at 4:33 AM

22222

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The title of today’s post reflects that fact that today is 2/22/22, on which date the country used to celebrate George Washington’s birthday when I was a kid, and for the sake of which this post went out at 2:22 in the morning. That’s a lotta 2s. Even so, you’re getting just one twosome of photographs today. From the property of Central City Austin Church in far northwest Austin on Valentine’s Day come these two pictures of sycamore trees, Platanus occidentalis. In the top view, the sycamore played merely a supporting role, literally and pictorially, for a shelf fungus. Below, the peeling bark on a sycamore bole is the subject in its own right.

 

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American college tuition has skyrocketed, “thanks” to the bloat of high-salaried administrators making sure that trendy ideological nonsense pervades everything. Prime among the institutions that have resisted the descent into mass delusion and indoctrination is Hillsdale College. You don’t even have to enroll there to learn from its free online courses. Watch some lessons and see what you think.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 22, 2022 at 2:22 AM

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Woody winter white

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On January 13th along Talleyran Drive in far northwest Austin I didn’t need to call on freezing water—of which there was none—for winter white. The trunk and some branches of a sycamore tree (Platanus occidentalis) did the trick. The sunlit white gleamed so bright that by comparison the sky registered as a darker-than-normal blue. On January 30th at Jessica Hollis Park I went for the opposite of a minimalist approach by adding compositional complexity to the whiteness of a sycamore’s trunks and branches.

 

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In my commentary last July 23rd I documented that the founders of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) organization admitted to being trained Marxists who want to, among other transgressive things, “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement….” I also linked to a New York Post article reporting that the organization’s co-founder Patrisse Khan-Cullors—presumably, being a Marxist, a member of the downtrodden proletariat—had gone “on a real estate buying binge, snagging four high-end homes for $3.2 million in the US alone, according to property records.”

Now let me update the story. It’s been said that history repeats itself, and that seems to be the case here, only with a kind of corrupt-money version of Moore’s Law doubling the amount in considerably less than two years. On January 28th the Washington Examiner ran a story headlined “Anger over BLM’s purchase of $8.1 million Toronto mansion grows as group’s finances scrutinized.” And it turns out the mansion in question wasn’t just any old $8.1 million building, but the very same 10,000-square-feet mansion “that once served as the headquarters of the Communist Party of Canada.” Those Marxist defenders of the working class sure do know how to live in style.

But there’s more. As the January 28th Examiner story also noted: “BLM revealed last February it raked in $90 million in 2020 from big corporations and individual donors after the police killing of George Floyd and the nationwide riots that followed. The group said it closed out 2020 with $60 million in its coffers.” Not only isn’t it clear where that $30 million difference went, but a January 27th Examiner article pointed out that it’s also not clear where BLM’s headquarters is and who’s in charge of the organization and all its money: “The nonprofit organization listed a nonexistent address [in Los Angeles] on its 2019 IRS 990 form, and a visit to the similarly named address listed on a credit monitoring report (which has the same street number but a different spelling for the street and the wrong ZIP code) came up empty.” Perhaps whoever’s running the show made an honest mistake and assumed that because the organization is a nonprofit it could have a nonexistent office.

The Examiner reports that a visit to the would-be address confirmed that BLM has no office there. The article continued: “One day after the visit, an unidentified BLM spokesperson emailed the Washington Examiner to clear up (or deepen) the mystery. ‘In response to your request for a copy of Black Lives Matter Global Network Foundation’s 2020 Form 990, we wish to inform you that at this time we do not maintain a permanent office,’ the spokesperson wrote, offering to send the form by mail instead.”

Where are the FBI and the IRS when we need them?

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I prepared this post a couple of days ago. Yesterday afternoon the Washington Examiner published a follow-up story headlined “California threatens to hold BLM’s leaders personally liable over missing financial records.” Here’s the first paragraph: “The California Department of Justice has threatened to hold the leaders of Black Lives Matter personally liable if they fail to fork over information about the charity’s $60 million bankroll within the next 60 days, according to a letter obtained by the Washington Examiner. You’re welcome to read the full story.

UPDATE: On the morning of February 2nd I came across yet another Washington Examiner article that documents more suspicious monetary dealings involving Black Lives Matter and some people associated with it. That article is headlined “BLM’s millions unaccounted for after leaders quietly jumped ship.”

Do you think the Washington Examiner will win a Pulitzer Prize for its thorough reporting? Dream on.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

 

 

 

Written by Steve Schwartzman

February 2, 2022 at 4:16 AM

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Here’s looking at you, kid[neywood flowers]

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How ’bout this face-on view of a small fly getting nectar from the flowers of a kidneywood tree (Eysenhardtia texana) in my neighborhood on December 16, 2021? That tree kept putting out flowers through the end of the year, even if only a tiny fraction of what it had produced at the end of October.

(This post’s title is an allusion to a line from the movie “Casablanca.”)

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Three months ago in these pages I wrote a commentary pointing out that inflation is a hidden tax that most affects the people least able to afford it, including the poor, of course, and the elderly on fixed incomes. People who have dutifully saved money for their later years look on helplessly as their retirement savings dwindle in value.

Yesterday the United States government announced that from December 2020 to December 2021, the Consumer Price Index had risen 7%, which was the highest jump in 40 years. A big factor in the increase is that both the last administration and the current one each spent trillions of dollars that we don’t have. Borrowing and printing money so extravagantly contributed heavily to the high inflation we’re now experiencing. And still the current administration is desperate to borrow, print, and spend trillions of dollars more in a Congressional bill that I can’t help but call Bilk Back Better. It’s madness.

UPDATE: A Quinnipiac poll whose results were released yesterday found that only 34% of the respondents approve the current president’s handling of the economy, with 57% disapproving. (The margin of error was 2.7 percentage points.)

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If you have the time, you can watch a two-hour conversation
among Steven Pinker, Jonthan Haidt, and Jordan Peterson.

© 2022 Steven Schwartzman

Written by Steve Schwartzman

January 13, 2022 at 4:29 AM

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